The Perfect Ireland Road Trip

Although I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, Ireland is a country where a car is practically a necessity. Click to see out all the beautiful places to visit in the Perfect Ireland Road Trip itinerary! | http://passportandplates.com

I’m going to be honest here. I have never driven outside of the United States. The idea of having to navigate foreign signs, rules, or even a manual car immediately causes me to break out in a cold sweat. Add a foreign language or driving on the wrong left side of the road, and it’s an accident waiting to happen. Reading this, you might find it odd that I’m writing a post on the best Ireland road trip.

With that lively introduction, it’s pretty obvious why I don’t take (m)any road trips abroad. I spend enough time in my car in Los Angeles and would rather let someone else take the wheel while I’m traveling.

BUT.

After spending nearly 6 months in Ireland a few years go, I came to realize that trying to see the country by bus or train was both expensive and inefficient. Most buses aren’t direct (unless you’re going from one major city to the other), and the tickets aren’t exactly budget friendly…especially if there are more than a couple of people involved in the trip. The train was simply not an option on my student budget. This is one of the few countries where a road trip isn’t just a friendly suggestion – it’s a downright necessity. Luckily, Ireland is beautiful and on the smaller side, so a road trip here is an enjoyable experience.

This is the itinerary for the best Ireland road trip!

 

Dublin

2 Days / 2 Nights

The DL: So you’ve arrived in Ireland, and chances are you’ve flown into Dublin…which is perfect, because this is where you should start your road trip. I recommend spending two days exploring Dublin before (affiliate link) renting your car. It’s really easy (not to mention cost-efficient!) to get around the city on foot or on the metro, so wait to get your wheels until you’re about to leave the city, and you’re ready to start the best Ireland road trip ever.

What to see: Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse or the Jameson Distillery, the Leprechaun Museum*, Kilmainham Gaol Prison, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College Library, and The National Gallery*. Don’t forget to check out the Temple Bar area and Copper Face Jack’s, Dublin’s most loved / hated nightclub.

*the Leprechaun museum is small but it’s a fun place for photos. You can easily skip it. If you don’t like museums, then skip the National Gallery too.

Although I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, Ireland is a country where a car is practically a necessity. Click to see out all the beautiful places to visit in the Best Ireland Road Trip itinerary! | http://passportandplates.com

You know what they say 😉 / Guinness Storehouse

 

Dublin -> Belfast

½ day

The DL: It will take you around 2 hours to get from Dublin to Belfast on the freeway. This is what my friends and I opted to do. On the way, I suggest stopping at Newgrange, Europe’s largest burial chamber. We missed it in our eagerness to get to Belfast, but I’m including it in here because this is the best Ireland road trip after all! You’ll likely arrive in Belfast in the afternoon. Plan on spending 2 nights here, assuming you take around half a day to arrive in Belfast.

 

Belfast

1.5 days / 2 nights

What to see: Donegall Square, Crown Liquor Saloon, the Botanical Gardens, City Hall, the Titanic Belfast Museum, Hillsborough Castle and the Belfast Political Murals.

Although I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, Ireland is a country where a car is practically a necessity. Click to see out all the beautiful places to visit in the Best Ireland Road Trip itinerary! | http://passportandplates.com

Global and local politics

 

Belfast -> Derry

½ day

The DL: This is where the best Ireland road trip starts to get even better, and even more gorgeous. Wake up early and grab breakfast then make your way to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. On the way, stop and pick up picnic items and have a picnic at one of the many benches lining the coastal route. The somewhat rickety bridge isn’t for the faint of heart or those who are scared of heights, but cross the 261-year-old bridge and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the North Coast and some spectacular photos to boot.

Next, do the short drive over to Giant’s Causeway, where you’ll find amazing hexagonal rock column formations caused by an ancient volcano eruption. It’s mind-blowing to see. After a couple of hours here, complete the drive to Derry, where you should arrive by late afternoon.

 

 

Derry

1 day / 1 night

What to see: The Free Derry Corner Murals, the People’s Gallery Murals, the Peace Bridge, and the Bogside neighborhood.

Although I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, Ireland is a country where a car is practically a necessity. Click to see out all the beautiful places to visit in the Best Ireland Road Trip itinerary! | http://passportandplates.com

 

Derry -> Galway

½ day

The DL: The road from Derry to Galway is long – around 4 hours – so I recommend waking up early to see the various murals of Derry. If you make good time, you can get to Galway by the late evening, leaving you enough time to grab dinner and maybe even check out some of the pubs (the Quays is my favorite!).

 

Galway

1.5 days / 2 nights

What to see: Salthill Prom, Live music at Tig Cóilií, the Quay’s, or Crane Bar, Eyre Square, the Spanish Arch, Salmon Weir Bridge, Shop Street, and the Galway Cathedral.

*If you can spare an extra day and night, I highly recommend a day trip (via ferry) to the Aran Islands, where you’ll find the Irish-speaking community, rolling hills, and soft Aran wool.

 

Galway -> Killarney

1 day

The DL: After spending two nights in Galway, get up early and drive to the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s most photographed landmark. If you really want to have the best Ireland road trip, then you can’t miss this. You can take a walk on the trails here, and even grab lunch nearby. On your way to the Cliffs, you’ll pass through quaint small towns, including Lisdoonvarna, home to the famous Matchmaker Bar. Spend the rest of the afternoon driving to Killarney.

 

Killarney

2 days/ 3 nights

What to see: St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney National Park, Gap of Dunloe, and Dingle (day trip).

*If you want to do the famous scenic Ring of Kerry drive, add 1-2 days to the itinerary.

 

Killarney -> Cork

2 hours

The DL: This drive is only an hour and a half or so. Once you arrive in Cork, spend the afternoon at the Blarney Castle, exploring the grounds, castle, and of course, kissing the stone!

 

Cork

2 days / 2 nights

What to see: Blarney Castle and stone, Fota Wildlife Park, Patrick Street, Cork City Gaol, English Market, and Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

 

Waterford and Kilkenny*

*I have to admit – I never made it to either of these places, but people seem to love them, and we are talking about the best Ireland road trip here. Seeing these would have made it perfect. Waterford has the Treasures Exhibition and the Waterford Crystal factory. Kilkenny is home to several churches and abbeys, as well as the Smithwick’s experience. If you take this route, tack an extra two days onto your itinerary.

 

Cork -> Dublin

1 day

If you drive directly from Cork, you can get to Dublin in around 3 hours. Take a detour on the way and explore the Rock of Cashel before driving back to the city and parting ways with your trusted steed car. Fly home (or not!) the next day.

 

I know this itinerary is a bit long, but it covers the full gamut of Ireland’s highlights. Since I was based in Galway during my study abroad, my friends and I only did the Dublin to Galway part of the itinerary and took separate trips to the other cities. But if you find yourself with a couple of weeks (or more!) in Ireland, then follow this itinerary for the best Ireland road trip ever!

P.S. If you’re ready to pull the trigger, be sure to check out (affiliate link) Auto Europe for the best deal on renting a car in Europe!  

 

What do you think? Did this road trip cover Ireland’s highlights or did I miss a crucial landmark? Let me know in the comments below!

Although I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, Ireland is a country where a car is practically a necessity. Click to see out all the beautiful places to visit in the Best Ireland Road Trip itinerary! | http://passportandplates.com

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  • 2TravelDads

    This sounds great. And I am putting together a road trip plan for Northern California, so even though totally different, I love this sort of approach to travel and now my travel planning juices are flowing!

    • Yay, I’m glad to hear it! Northern California is a great place to explore by car. Looking forward to reading all about it 🙂

  • You’re right, having a car is so much better than relying on public transport and it gives so much more flexibility. This sounds like a fab road trip itinerary, and like you we’ve done about half of it, so need to go back and do the other half soon!

    • It’s a must in Ireland for sure! Plus, it’s much more cost-efficient. I hope you get a chance to do the second half soon 🙂

  • Jody Halsted

    To add Waterford & Kilkenny I would recommend adding 2 days- Kilkenny itself needs one to appreciate the Medieval City.

  • João Heitor

    hello… nice road trip… i did that last September and i have loved those 6 days… we traveled 1200Km (Dublin-> Galway-> Cliffs of Moher – Limerick -> Killarney National Park – Kenmare through the park – Cork -> Cobh – Waterford – Dublin through Wicklow National Park) by car and they were worth every millimeter!!! perfect!!

    I will add the return to Dublin through the Wicklow Park (Old Military Road)… the sunset in the Dublin panoramic view near Killakee is perfect for ending the trip…

    It is good to remember!! :p

    • Whoaaa that’s awesome! You basically saw all of Ireland :). Oh yessss I’ve heard great things about Wicklow! I’ll have to add it to the list for next time! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • I was in contention to move to Belfast sometime back, but not anymore. It would have been too nice to read this post on Ireland then ☺️